Irish Cesarewitch winner Cape Gentleman made an impressive start to his career over hurdles at Punchestown.
An 80,000 euro purchase out Nicolas Clement’s yard in France, the four-year-old filled the runner-up spot behind the high-class Mt Leinster on his Irish debut for Emmet Mullins at Listowel in September, before going one better at the Curragh the following month.
The Champs Elysees gelding was the 5-4 favourite for the Gift A Donation This Year Maiden Hurdle – and bar one mistake in the back straight, jumped accurately in the hands of Brian Hayes.
Petibonome and Homme D’un Soir tracked the leader into the home straight, but Cape Gentleman ultimately proved far too good, coasting clear under his motionless rider on the run-in for a two-length victory.
“That was great – it was great to get him on the board on his first run over hurdles,” said Mullins.
“He jumped well for most of it, I missed the mistake so I must go back and look at that.
“Brian seemed very happy – he’s over the moon with him.”
Betfair make Cape Gentleman a 20-1 shot for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Mullins added: “We’ll have a look at the programme book now. He’s hopefully a horse to look forward to in the spring.
“I was very sceptical if he’d handle the heavy, winter ground today. I had a Leopardstown maiden hurdle at Christmas in the back of my head, but that’s knocked on the head now.
“I’m not sure where we’ll go now, but we’ll look at a step up in grade and he should be able to cope with it.”